SLITHERING ON IN OUR SMALL, GLORIOUS LIVES

I feel at odds with myself this week, not sure why.

Have been reading Conversion: Spiritual Insights Into an Essential Encounter with God (!) by Fr. Donald Haggerty, a moral theologian and spiritual director who serves at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC. You may know him from his reflections in Magnificat, which are always great.

I talk about the book a bit (and some other things) in the video below.

What struck me earlier today was this:

“Is there something more to give to God that until now has been withheld? Something essential that calls for recognition? Something I am refusing to see? The question of a possible blindness in our soul can have a way of rising up at times in the silence of prayer without a satisfactory answer…Was a request from God missed? An invitation ignored?….”

Maybe, he says. But then again, “What he may desire at present is simply our complete surrender to his will in our current circumstances. That is enough, and yet it is also a very difficult thing. This must be a surrender that cuts deeply and irrevocably into our soul, and it is not easy. It is another form of conversion.”

It’s been interesting accepting my current circumstances here in Tucson. I like it here. It’s very beautiful, in its way: people do come to the Southwest from all over the world. But it’s a far cry from California, not to mention LA. The electric excitement, the melting-pot exuberance, the cutting-edge fashion, food, style–even though that was never my milieu, a certain amount of that is nice to be around.

Plus the natural beauty, the abundance, the variety of the things that will grow there: simply by sticking succulent cuttings in pots you can have a more or less rioutous garden. People tend to have a certain level of education, awareness, et cetera. Big city vs small city stuff that holds true across the board. But then there’s just the vastness and overwhelming beauty and openness and the magnificent California weather. The place is deep in my bones. Which doesn’t mean I was always (or really ever) happy there–is anyone ever really “happy” for any length of time?–nor that I regret moving, at all; nor that I want to go back.

Still I gave up 30 years of roots, such as they were, and now won’t live long enough to establish that kind of longevity anywhere. It’s left me in a new way with nowhere to lay my head in a sense. Trust me, people are not dying to get to know me here! I offered to give a free talk to college students at the nearby Newman Center and they were like…”Unh…right. Let us get back to you on that.” That was in January, 2023.

Then again no-one’s much interested in me, or anyone, in this world! So I don’t take it personally. Also though I can be pushy I’m just not the type to barge in and start shaking everyone’s hand. I tend to hang back. So be it.

For a while I thought I was supposed to make a concerted effort to change my basic temperament (I have made such attempts many times over the years but always snap back, like an elastic that’s been overstretched, to my original position). Now I see I am just where I’m “supposed” to be. Stripped down. No great ramen around the corner to cheer me up. No friends writing screenplays or putting on one-person shows or doing gigs. No temptation to mistake the “electric energy” around me for my identity; to believe that I am somehow inherently glittery, cutting-edge, attractively cosmopolitan; to suffer the illusion that externals in any way define me.

In fact, I’m exactly the same person and live the exact same kind of monastic life I did in LA, in slightly different surroundings. I trudge to Mass by myself, as often as I can, alone, as I have done since 1996. I pray. I take a walk. I read. I virtually never go out at night.I keep up with a wide variety of people. I accept any invitation or request I can. I travel a certain amount, almost always to visit someone, give a retreat, see a museum, and/or take in natural beauty. This week a couple of different visitors are coming through town so that will be wonderful.

I guess I do actually live fairly “simply,” though after reading a Gulag prison memoir it doesn’t seem so simple.

In any case, as Fr. Haggery says, even a love for beauty can’t come before Christ. I do feel I was called to Tucson for some reason that has not perhaps entirely been revealed and maybe never will be. We worry, we humans–have I missed an invitation, a call, a request from God? Or am I just thinking my life should be a little more glittery, a little more…remarkable? That I should be surrendering in a way that makes a little more of a splash…

To even ask the latter question makes me realize: No. Just keep slithering on in your glorious little life. Offer your prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day. Do your 20 minutes of yoga with Kassandra. Get your list together for Trader Joe’s. Sweep up for the zillionth time the tiny mesquite leaves that get tracked through the house everytime you go outside. Work on this week’s column. Answer your emails and balance your checkbook. Say the Angelus at noon. Thank God you don’t live in a Russian prison camp.

And if you see a figure swathed in a second-hand Army-green Barbour coat with a fleece-lined hood, making its way up Third Street toward Campbell, cluthing a Rosary and mouthing the Luminous Mysteries around 4:45 tonight…that’ll be me, en route to Mass.

Inside, I’ll be singing.

28 Replies to “SLITHERING ON IN OUR SMALL, GLORIOUS LIVES”

  1. Anonymous says: Reply

    Great talk, have a truly Blessed New Year, stay warm and safe
    Heading to March for Life next week
    Thinking of you often
    Pax, In the Risen Lord always
    Monique

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Bless you Monique–I emailed you separately, hope you received it…praying with and for you as you make your way to the March for Life next week…eternal gratitude for your support.

  2. Dear Heather, I loved this whole time of sharing. Many of your written words and spoken ones connect with me today. I have read several of your books. I wish sometimes I were your next door neighbor.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Ha Jill, I could use a next-door neighbor with whom to discuss these IMPORANT MATTERS!…so I’d love to have you for a neighbor, too…in the meantime, together in the Eucharist…

  3. Heather, your excellent video about Ratushinskaya made me look for two quotes from Solzhenitsyn about lying: “Our present system is unique in world history, because over and above it’s physical and economic constraints, it demands of us total surrender of our souls, continuous and active participation in the general, conscious lie.” And: “Because in our country the daily lie is not the whim of corrupt natures but a mode of existence, a condition of the daily welfare of every man. In our country the lie has been incorporated into the state system as the vital link holding everything together, with billions of tiny fasteners, several dozen to each man.” Thanks for putting me onto Ratushinskaya.

    Ron

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Thanks so much, Ron, excellent quotes and so relevant…

  4. Dearest Heather, age(ing) is a part of your move to Tuscon/listening to your needs/abilities. I feel exactly! the same! as you about California. God uses us everywhere we are! As older/alone women we need to live in a safe/balanced and affordable place, therefore making us a greater useable asset for His works!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Yes, Glenda! God uses us wherever we are, and wherever we are is in its way heaven…we’re here on earth for such a short time and I feel sure that in heaven we’ll get to drink in the landscapes, and all else, that we love for all eternity! Blessed January to you….

  5. Anonymous says: Reply

    At least in New England where I live, January and February are kind of “slithering” months too as we hang on to each added moment of light and try to awaken ourselves from winter’s slumber. But good books help!! Thank you for your book recommendations and commentary which you weave so well into a meditation on your daily life. The concern I gleaned is, as you say, how to find oneself “home” where you live especially after a move when every signpost is new. And how to know, wherever we are, what God actually wants from us. Thank you for raising these questions and sharing your perspective as well as the authors of the books! If we lived closer I’d look for you in the green coat!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Having grown up on the coast of NH and lived in NE till I was almost 40, I know those winters well! They’re very beautiful, in their way and as you say, excellent for reading…I should write a piece re that green coat, which weighs about 40 pounds and that I lugged all over Irleland and to Bruges and back…I appreciate your readership and understanding to the skies…light a nice fire and keep warm out there…

  6. Anonymous says: Reply

    So amazing! This is just the medicine I need today. Thank you.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Natural Vicodin…that makes me so happy to be in company with Christ, the Great Physician…

  7. Anne Mallampalli says: Reply

    I don’t know why, but I just love you. Thank you. Thank you.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Well I am glad someone does, Anne! That is the nicest thing–I am going to say I love you, too!

  8. Carol Clark says: Reply

    Your posts always speak to me, but this one strikes particularly deep. I moved from a place in which I was deeply rooted. That was almost 20 years ago and I feel I am finally getting my footing back. It has been a journey I probably wouldn’t have struck out on without necessity, but has been full of twists and turns which have challenged me and caused me to go deeper. I thank you for your honesty and beautiful way of expression. You are a gift to so many.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Yes, Carol, usually it’s only in hindsight that I see…Oh. This is EXACTLY where I’m supposed to be…and was supposed to be all along…it’s definitely a process to start anew as it were. But I think what I’m learning is that I get to be more deeply aware of what I can bring rather than what the place can “give” to me…then of course treasures are heaped upon us from every corner…thanks so much for your kind words. It’s good to know my words matter…

  9. Heather, I am utterly grateful for this musing. In particular: “Then again no-one’s much interested in me, or anyone, in this world! So I don’t take it personally.”

    Oh, for that kind of strength! God is so good. How I wish I had met you when I was at the Newman Center where I went to Mass, many moons ago.

    I wish you joy and knowing more and more the certainty of your vocation.
    Angela

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Thanks, Angela…this idea of feeling unwelcome…it has taken me many years to see how very little interest most people have in each other, and ever more so in our culture of phone screens. So my job is to be interested in THE OTHER PERSON!…Cause he or she is probably also dying to be welcomed, even if silently…this awareness of those around us perhaps a kind of work of mercy(?). Anyway, you will be with me in spirit at the Newman Center…again, thank you.

  10. Anonymous says: Reply

    So grateful for how you put words to my feelings about aging, winter, surrender, faith, hope and love. Thank you. Such a gift to feel hear my own heart speak through a kindred spirit ever losing self, going with the flow and going deeper to find precious treasure! Thank you.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      So often the post in which I feel I have nothing much to say, and am just rambling, is the one people respond to…I’m so glad we are kindred spirits! Thank you.

  11. Michael Demers says: Reply

    I always thought it’d be interesting to live in Los Angeles but it’s too late for me. I’ve already spent the last thirty-four years here in Phoenix. Maybe I should just listen to Fr. Haggerty and accept my circumstances and learn to love God more than beauty.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      There ya go, Michael…that sounds just right…

  12. shelli hall says: Reply

    As a Tucsonan who has had the pleasure of getting to know you this last year, I’m thrilled that you’ve moved here, and that you’ve brought all your beloved Los Angeles creative energy with you.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Aw Shelli! YOU have been one of Tucson’s greatest gifts, with your own fantastic spirit and energy…I look forward to many years of the same…Thank you.

  13. Anonymous says: Reply

    I always get a kick out of your monologues and articles! They also send me down some inspirational rabbit holes–if there is such a thing. I sit here with the library’s copy of “Into Great Silence” for example. Thank you thank you for writings and your love for the Lord and the body of Christ!
    I felt called to tell you about Pietra Fitness which is a wonderful combination of exercise and meditation online. Maybe you are already aware but it seems like a good fit for you too.
    Will I see you at NY Encounter this year?

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      No NYE this year–I’ll be in Guatemala the week of Ash Wednesday if they don’t have a coup and forbid travel or something drastic like that in the meantime…thanks for the fitness/meditation tip; I’m kind of maxed out at the moment but will perhaps check out later…and I’m so glad you managed to check out Into Great Silence from the library…to my mind it’s really a masterpiece…glad you’re liking the recommendations!

  14. Our commonality grows once again. From alcoholic to waitressing, to an education I really never used. We have shared a spirit and now relocation. I have just uprooted from 60 years of So Cal to upper state NY. My husband passed away, I became very sick. My sister from NY came to CA and saved me from a nursing home. She took me to my home and cared me for 4 months. I eventually followed her back to NY and bought a new home close to her and more family. This is not a change to adapt to it is an adventure of loving and being loved. When you are alcoholic you are secretive. When you are part of a family secretive is not possible. They are here shoveling snow, taking you to mass, salting your stairs, plumbing, eating, and celebrating . I am well.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      “An adventure of loving and being loved”…I guess that’s what we’re here for…but not easy, either part of that adventure, Terri…anyway, I’m so glad you found the wherewithal to re-locate and that your family is coming through…God bless your sister who saved you from a nursing home. Thannk you for your readership, and I’m glad for our many commonalities.

I WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS!

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